This classic firearms manufacturer is back with retro M16s
Many Cold War veterans are nostalgic for the rifle that they carried in the service. However, whether you carried an M16A1 in Vietnam or an M16A2 in Kuwait, faithful replicas of these firearms are difficult to find and the government-issue machine guns are virtually impossible to get. Additionally, retro culture has attracted great interest in early AR-style rifles, of which there are not nearly enough on the used market to satisfy demand. So, a classic firearms manufacturer was revived to build new retro rifles.
In 1859, Nathan Harrington started a firearms manufacturing firm with Smith & Wesson co-founder Daniel Wesson. Twelve years later, Harrington's nephew, Gilbert, partnered with Wesson to form Wesson & Harrington until Wesson was bought out in 1874. The next year, Harrington partnered with another former Smith & Wesson employee, William Richardson, and founded the Harrington & Richardson Company. In 1888, it was incorporated as The Harrington & Richardson Arms Company.
While not a powerhouse like S&W or Colt, H&R produced high-quality firearms in low quantities. Their early 20th-century rifles and shotguns are extremely rare and highly valued by 21st-century collectors. Although the original H&R went out of business in 1986, the name was revived with H&R 1871, Inc. in 1991. The new company used original H&R designs to revive classic revolvers, single-shot rifles and shotguns. In 2000, H&R was acquired by Marlin Firearms which itself was acquired by the Remington Arms Company seven years later. Under Remington, H&R ceased production in 2015.
When Remington went bankrupt in 2020, its assets were auctioned off, including H&R. The company was acquired by JJE Capital Holdings, LLC, parent company of Palmetto State Armory. Looking to bring retro rifles to an eager market, JJE hired Mike Wetteland to serve as CEO of the revived H&R. Wetteland's company, NoDak Spud, established a following by creating and selling retro rifle parts. With NDS parts and Wetteland's expertise, H&R could make complete retro rifles with proper markings.
During the Vietnam War, Colt was unable to fulfill the U.S. military's orders for M16s. As a result, the Hydramatic Division of General Motors and H&R were contracted to make military rifles. So, when an H&R logo is engraved onto a reproduction M16A1, it is entirely accurate. Only the production location on the receiver and the fact the rifle is restricted to semi-automatic fire give it away. Under the H&R brand, Wetteland expanded his line of retro rifles to the M16A2 as well as Colt Carbines like the XM177E2 and 723. "We're gonna flesh out the line," Wetteland told WATM of his plans for H&R. "I'm gonna try to go from late 50s/early 60s all the way up through the 90s."
Although H&R didn't historically make other AR-style rifles like the M16A2, having genuine markings brings an extra layer of authenticity to the reproductions. Sold through PSA, H&R offers complete rifles, complete lower receivers, complete upper receivers and parts. Whether you're looking to build a clone of the Delta Force carbines in Black Hawk Down or want to pick up a service rifle like the one you were issued, Wetteland's attention to detail ensures that H&R offers quality and highly accurate reproductions.